Working Group 8: Towards locally derived and locally meaningful development goals

Pekka Sepälä, Ministry of Foreign Affairs (,
Sabaheta Ramcilovik-Suominen, Natural Resources Institute Finland (, Giles Mohan, Open University

There is a widely shared view that development policy and development cooperation should be adapted to the local political and cultural context. Experience has shown that ‘local ownership’ and local knowledge are some of the key prerequisites for development interventions to yield positive and avoid negative implications and impacts. It is further important to consider and address the political economy, as well as the complexity of societies and their cultural settings.

Recognising a variety of organizational, cultural and political reasons that limitsdevelopment organisations’ ability to adopt their development interventions to the local context leading to top-down approaches, this working group call for theoretical and practical contributions concerning the potentials, as well as constrains for local actors andinstitutions to: i) take leadership, ii) bring forward various local actors’ interests andpriorities, iii) use local forms of social organization, and iv) emphasise local knowledge and forms of indigenous knowledge. The working group also invites contributions on alternative forms of involvement and development initiatives of external development actors.

First session presenters:

1. Development: Power of the Concept and Its Historical Accumulation. Juhani Koponen, Development Studies, University of Helsinki.

This paper gives the gist of my argument in my presentation ‘When (the concept of) development went local’ at the Development Days in Helsinki on 28 February to 1st of March 2019 and its broader theoretical and historical context. I argue that ‘development’ is not only a northern imposition on what is now called the Global South but it is also something that is widely shared in the South. I agree that it was devised by, and perhaps in, the North but it was also taken over by the South. My presentation focuses on the decisive moment roughly from the later 1940s to the 1960s when development was turned from a notion for colonial exploitation to one for national liberation. The paper argues that to understand this we need to understand that whatever else development is it is also a concept and if we wish to deal with it we have to understand how it works as concept. In the paper I suggest that development is so deeply ingrained in our ‘Western’ habitus that it has accumulated much power which can inform and guide our action. Widely criticized for its ambiguity, I believe that much of the power of development actually stems from the very ambiguity. As a result of a long historical process the concept of development has accumulated many different meanings which makes it useful for many different purposes. It has many lineages, a major one of which is of colonial origin. Having been introduced in the South as a notion for colonial exploitation of local resources, at the dissolution of the colonial empires it was taken into its present use as soft power by Western powers and anti-colonial nationalists alike and was transformed into the foundational concept of developmentalism. However, the lineages of development should be seen more as historical parallels generated by similar structural circumstances than as direct genealogical continuities And both its ambiguity and its power have limits. It has a structure in the fusion of its three dimension of a goal, an immanent process, and intentional action. And ultimately, while concepts can and do affect people’s behavior, they work within the dynamics of material and mental interests.

2.  Corporate responsibility in African post-colonial states. An exploration of how and why gas corporations are developing Tanzania. Eva Nilsson Doctoral Candidate Hanken School of Economics.

Corporate responsibility in African post-colonial states. An exploration of how and why gas corporations are developing Tanzania. This article aims to contribute to the understanding of corporate responsibility, government and governance in African states. More precisely, it considers how and why Multinational Corporations (MNCs) are expected and steered by African governments to contribute to local and national development through Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiatives, earmarked taxes and employment. Contrary to a common understanding of MNCs being political actors in spaces where the state is weak or statehood is limited, I argue that corporate responsibility can be state-led. Conventional and mostly institutionalist corporate responsibility and government literature, as well as that on corporate responsibility in areas of “limited statehood”, largely neglects government agency in African states and considers corporate responsibility acts to be responses to demands by local communities or Western publics. Limited statehood is understood as areas in which governments lack the capacity to set and implement collectively binding rules and to provide collective goods. In contrast to these approaches, this article draws insights from African state theory and postcolonial studies. It argues that state-led corporate responsibility can be explained by an ongoing decolonial struggle related to nation building and by aims to empower black majority populations. Furthermore, through the concept of “extraversion” (Bayart 1993, 2000) the article describes how profiting from corporate responsibility is a strategy by governments to provide collective goods to their voters. African political elites, despite their dependence of foreign resources, actively manage this relationship of dependence in order to serve their and their constituencies interests. The concept of extraversion and the focus on government agency opens up new horizons to understand governmental approaches to corporate responsibility in African contexts. This approach analyses the state in its own right rather than as a reflection of European statehood, as weak or limited. The article is based on ongoing research conducted since 2016 on a joint gas sector investment by Shell, Equinor (former Statoil), Exxon Mobile, Ophir Energy and Pavillion Energy in Tanzania.

3. Corporate social responsibility and its limits in a mining region in India. Satu Ranta-Tyrkkö, University lecturer, PhD, University of Jyväskylä.

My presentation discusses the context and practices of corporate social responsibility (CSR) in a mining region in Odisha, eastern India, with high levels of poverty and environmental degradation. As I outline, in the absence of much government investment in the region and its people, the currently existing welfare services and facilities are to great extent sponsored by the mining companies that operate in the region. However, while much needed as such, these CSR programs, which are commonly referred to as either community or peripheral development, comprise essentially of community investment, such as providing community buildings, water tanks, electricity, facilities to schools, or organizing health camps. At the same time, social and community development in a social justice oriented and empowering sense remains lacking and is beyond corporate interests. Moreover, such an approach to community development would be difficult to implement due to the dependence of the poorest and most stigmatized workers on the companies for the precarious jobs available. Overall, the situation raises ethical and political challenges relating to corporate power versus powerless workers, environment versus jobs, and corporate social responsibility versus community development and organizing. The presentation draws from my postdoctoral research on the consequences of the mining industry for disadvantaged groups in Northern Finland and Northern Odisha (Academy of Finland, 2014-2017), and in particular two relatively short sets of fieldwork in the mining region in 2015 in collaboration with prof. Bipin Jojo, Tata Institute of Social Sciences.

4. Localizing Co-management Ontologies in Developments around Protected Areas. Ayonghe A. Nebasifu, PhD. Researcher, Anthropology Research Group, Arctic Centre, University of Lapland. 

The theoretical position among proponents of development theory and co-management critique pertains to Protected Area (PA) management schemes that self-perpetuate the very system they seek to ameliorate. This is visible in third world countries where in, for several decades, following the advent of the Second World War (WW2), strived to regain economic growth. By means of Structural Adjustment Policies (SAP), these countries initiated development plans with financial institutions like the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF). However, these historical processes went a long way rationalizing forestry and agricultural sectors, leaving footprints of conflicting interests to local communities that rely on the forest for subsistence livelihoods. Using highlights from a fieldwork I conducted in Cameroon, sub-Saharan West Africa in 2017, as part of my doctoral dissertation task, I present the case of Mount Cameroon National Park (MCNP) and its adjacent communities. On this example, I show how a co-managed initiative of PA governance linked to SAP, is contradictory, and yet utilized by village inhabitants using adaptive and resilient attitudes to attain their development needs. The study arises from qualitative focus group discussions in 17 villages of MCNP. The key finding shows that in spite of concerns in the existing comanaged scheme for MCNP, there is room for compromise manifested in ontological variances between communities in semi-urban areas and those in rural areas. In the former, locals developed practices that utilize the co-managed system to meet improvements in their livelihoods. In the latter, they continued traditional practices on land in semi-formalized contexts, in both PA and its peripheral zones. This hypothesis helps to bridge empirical gaps in co-management-critique, suggesting that a move to ‘localized co-management’ can provide options for empowering local communities towards progress. Keywords: Localized co-management; Development; Mount Cameroon National Park; Adaptive resilience; Ontologies; Protected Areas

5. Stones, Sand, and Paper: Revisiting better lives through local voices. Alice Kern, University of Zurich. 

Stones, Sand, and Paper: Revisiting better lives through local voices A good life becomes relatively worse through promises or examples of better ones. Development, which attempts to improve other people’s lives without questioning oneself, often results in dependence and disappointment. This short input provides irritation and local voices, rather than ready-made solutions. It aims at changing our perception. Graphic images and village stories from in-depth fieldwork in Sri Lanka and Nepal present the empirical background for the discussion of alternative approaches. They include the following examples from international “cooperation” in rural, post-war South Asia: 1) Young Magars in Nepal’s mid-Western hills throw stones in the new irrigation ponds. What they have in mind, rather than agriculture, is a better life elsewhere. 2) Indigenous Veddhas in Sri Lanka’s Eastern Dry Zone carry sand into their new concrete houses. They complain about the buildings and prefer to sleep on the ground as before. 3) Veddhas in a coastal village in Sri Lanka crumple every official paper they receive. Besides being illiterate, they just want to be left in peace. The Tamil NGO workers describe them as “always falling back”. How can we make sense of this “falling back”? What are meaningful alternatives? This input suggests that “failures” are more than just unsatisfactory development outcomes. They indicate what people understand as better life, or rather, as their own lives. Development beyond a transformation from outside could be about recognition. This requires academics and practitioners to accept a local point of view. And this might change them more than the lives of other people.

Second session presenters: 

6. Think Global Act Local. Transnational Corporate Social Responsibility Meets Local Needs in Ghana. Ann-Christin Hayk, M.A. PhD student & research assistant Cultural & Regional Geography – Faculty of Regional & Environmental Sciences Trier University.

In Ghana, especially in the areas of the country where valuable extractive operations are located, a global phenomenon becomes apparent: Transnational corporations appear as partner for development. Particularly in the global South, they take over tasks that governments cannot (will not) fulfil. In this role, companies face the claim to adhere to local socio-economic contexts and to create locally adapted strategies. Yet, most apply one universal corporate social responsibility (CSR) policy in all host countries confronted by critics for overlooking unique local requirements and stakeholder compositions (Dougherty and Olsen, 2014; Filatochev and Stahl, 2015; Jamali et al, 2017). Therefore, this study aims to understand effective governance tools, roles of, and power allocation between local, national, and global actors, which may incentivise the local alteration of corporations´ universal CSR. It relates to a recent socio-constructivist concept of policy mobilisation that accentuates the necessity of adapting policies to local contexts through mutation and assemblage (McCann and Ward, 2013; Peck, 2011; Stone, 2017). As case study serve two transnational oil companies – Eni and Kosmos – that support local healthcare services in two distinct districts in the peripheral Western Region in Ghana. In the West African country, no official policy guides the private sector´s CSR. Thus, it is at stake who may how facilitate efficient CSR interventions of mutual benefit. Qualitative empirical data from Ghana and a thematic analysis thereof reveal all actors´ impressions of actual and possible alteration processes. The results disclose profound differences between the perception of Eni´s engagement in one district and Kosmos´ activities in the other district. Local scale government institutions seem to play a crucial role in negotiating beneficial CSR investments for local communities. Particularly pro-active and reciprocal relations as well as clearly defined governance structures between local authorities and transnational corporations increase the chance of a local adaptation of companies´ universal CSR policies to meet essential local needs.

7. Land Ownership Transformation before and after Forest Fires in Indonesian Palm Oil Plantation Areas. Rijal Ramdani, University of Eastern Finland.

The massive forest fires and land transformation from protected forests to industrial plantation have been arising in Indonesia as consequences of palm oil industry and other activities (Miettinen, Shi, & Liew, 2012). The unsustainable farming activities of land clearing on palm oil plantation practiced by small-holder farmers and the interplay of elite interests are the main driving force of this issue (Purnomo et al., 2016). This study aims to examine the context, process and motivation of the land ownership transformation mainly before and after forest fires in palm oil plantation activities.

The research was conducted in Bengkalis regency Riau Province on Sumatera Island as the most vulnerable region for forest fires since 2013 and the province is most pressured area of the palm oil industry (Barus et al., 2016). The data were generated through in-depth interview with twelve small-holder farmers closed to the burn areas, three local politicians, three leaders of communities, ten NGOs leaders, and eight administrative officers of regency. Hence, we asked them to fulfil a questionnaire to evaluate the motivation of land ownership transformation. In addition, we visited twelve burned areas, two to three times, in 2015, 2016, and 2017 to compare the changing of land right and function and to find the coordinate to be presented in the GIS map.

The result demonstrates clear evidence exists of forests transformation into palm oil plantations. Local elites benefit of this activity while small-holder farmers are poorly positioned. On the one hand, they have to do an illegal and criminal activities of forest burning, and on the other hand, they do not get any income from the planted palm oil land because the land is sold to the local elite. The highest motivation of the ownership transformation is profit-oriented followed by agricultural production and financial investment. It is argued that government role is very critical to allocate the land equally and to define the right of local community common boundaries clearly. Hence, the small-holder farmers can be encouraged to develop an institutional arrangement towards sustainable natural resources governance based on their indigenous knowledge.

Keywords: Land ownership transformation, Forest Fire, Palm Oil Plantation, Indonesia

8. Gendered Dynamism and Reciprocity in Fishing Communities in Ghana. The Case of Penkye, Winneba in Ghana. Esther Yeboah Danso-Wiredu, University of Education, Winneba. 

Most fishing communities have preserved their culture and tradition despite the changes in many sectors of the country. For example, in most cases, payments for services provided to fishermen are in kind, with fishes instead of money. This phenomenon is not only common to fishing areas in Ghana but also found in fishing communities in some countries (see Yodanis, 2000). One peculiar feature of fishing communities is the strict gender division of labour. Again, this is not limited to fishing communities in Ghana but also in other areas (Bank of Ghana, 2008; Britwum, 2009; Hapke and Ayyankeril, 2004; Yodanis, 2000). Whilst men are responsible for fishing, women are usually involved in basic fish processing and marketing. The gender division roles played by both men and women are culturally embedded in the institutions within the communities (Odotei, 2003). They are pursued in their life courses as institutional norms which no one questions. Both men and women are trained differently by their parents and the community on the roles they play in the fishing industry. They are socially learned as they grow up (Yodanis, 2000). As described by Schultz and Haines (2005), the fishing industry shows a classic case of cooperation among men and women where organisation of fishing activities become interdependent. Neither gender would survive without the other (Williams, Williams, & Choo, 2006). Though women are not involved in fishing, the role women play is as important as that of men, hence, both exercise some authority in their areas of specialization (see also, Yodanis, 2000). There are indigenous communities along the coast of Winneba of which Penkye is the oldest with the history of the Winneba revolving around it. Penkye is known for its fishing activities, and for the preservation of the Effutu 1culture. Fishing activities in the community are done on gender basis as in other fishing communities in Ghana (Britwum, 2009) and many parts of the world (Hapke & Ayyankeril, 2004). Apart from fishing, access to other livelihood assets such as housing is also on gender basis. The history of Penkye is linked to that of Winneba township since it is the first place the Effutu people settled in the town. Located along the coast, majority of its residents are employed in the fishing industry. Intriguing about Penkye is how social and economic livelihoods of residents are entangled in gender roles and reciprocity. The article delves into the institutional embeddedness of fishing and community life. It examines how gender ideologies differentially inform men and women’s roles in the fishing economy. Drawing on interviews conducted with community members, the study constructs economic life stories for men and women within the fishing community. It analyzes how they formulate livelihood strategies differently from other parts of the country as a result. The study concludes that such realities defy the ideologies of the impersonal market economy propagated by the capitalist ideology, thereby questioning the basis of neoliberal ideology that market prices are solely determined by demand and supply interactions.

9. Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) as a tool for responsibilisation? Observations on the actors of FSC forest certification: The case of Russia. Denis Dobrynin, the Department of Geographical and Historical Studies, University of Eastern Finland.

Contemporary governing concepts assume not only the exercise of power by the state but also the participation of non-state actors in many fields, including forest governance. Decentralization of forest governance and participation of civil society and communities in decision-making are developed by such market-driven interventions as forest certification. For example, appearing of the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) has made members of ‘Green Alliance’ – timber companies and non-governmental organizations responsible to ensure sustainable forest management and forest protection in many regions of the world. Incorporating of Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) into the FSC forest management standards all over the world involves expansion of this ‘responsibilisation’ to local communities. As a result of this new FSC requirement, in theory, communities receive a tool to give or not give consent in relation to forestry operations to protect their legal and customary rights to use resources and territories and to prevent the destruction of their lives, cultures, and livelihoods. In Russia, this is happening against the background of exclusive state ownership of forests and ‘old’ state-led top-down type of governance in the country in general. We analyse this FSC-led empowerment of communities in the context of Bas Arts’ forest governance ‘Triple G’ perspective (government, governance, governmentality) to take a critical look at it from different angles. The study is based on the case of Northwest Russia, where vast state forest lands are leased by FSC certified timber companies.

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